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Capitalism and Romantic ideology in the record business


Given the existing capitalist determinants on the structure of the popular music industry, the record companies, because of their economic importance, not only represent one moment in a system where the music moves from artist to audience, but also generate both the artist, as producer for the industry, and the audience, as consumer for the industry's products — and both as living facets of an ideology best described as Romantic. Romanticism, whilst lived as being in opposition to capitalist concerns founded on rationality and standardisation, in fact supports capitalism by providing both an enabling rationale for invention and a sustaining emphasis on the individual which allows cultural products to be viewed as something other than simply more commodities. The Otherness of culture in capitalist society may be viewed as the manifestation of the necessary but repressed ‘irrational’ qualities which bring into existence and sustain the rational, ordered structure of capitalist practice. In the record business, both the rational aspects of capitalism and the Romanticism of its Other are highlighted by virtue of the highly developed capitalist nature of the culture industry.

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P. Hirsch 1971/1972. ‘Processing fads and fashions’, American Journal of Sociology, 77, pp. 639–59

B. Martin 1981. The Sociology of Contemporary Cultural Change (Oxford)

J. Stratton 1982. ‘Between two worlds: art and commercialism in the record industry. The case of the British music press’, Sociological Review, 30:2, pp. 267–85

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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